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To thou or not to thou, that is the question
Thread poster: Vito Smolej

Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 18:37
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
May 22, 2008

Some languages still allow one to show respect in the direct discussion by offering Sie/Vous/Lei. Some don't anymore (sigh). Like English, the mother language of them all web sites. So, "Huston, we got a problem".

Localizing can be a nightmare. There's cases, where one just can not cop out by using the infinitive (like in "Bitte, den Eintrag bestätigen"). Cases like "Are you sure?". At some point the decision has to be made, whether the user is to be treated as a buddy ("Bist du sicher?" with the sucker version of "Bist Du sicher?") or as a detached/to-be-respected customer ("Sind Sie sicher?").

Its pretty much a cultural question... I decided for the "thou" alternative, when localizing ProZ for the Slovenian version. Would the "you" version hurt? Would it get too close for the comfort zone?

The Swedes for instance are starting to move to thou, but NOT in Ikea. And how about Canada, where everybody is on the first name basis. When in Slovenia, do as Slovenians do, I guess - will have to check. In the mean time ...

Suggestions / experience / comments welcome.


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Juliana Starkman  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 12:37
Spanish to English
+ ...
I must be missing out May 22, 2008

on a lot of intimacy with strangers, because as far as I can see, here in Toronto, if it's business, I still try to use a Mr. or Ms. At least once a week I find myself using Sir or Ma'am (shades of high school...), as in today at the bookstore when I asked a clerk "Ma'am, do you mind explaining why the price of books from the U.S. has not dropped along with the American dollar?"

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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:37
English to Spanish
+ ...
Tendencies May 23, 2008

In Spanish it appears to be almost universal now to use the informal "tú" in many situations, plus it makes things clearer because it has its own distinguishable second person verb form, while the verb form for "usted" (formal) is shared with the third person and can cause confusion.

In English, such distinction has fallen into disuse. However, I have become used to being called my my first name by perfect strangers, and young ones at that.

And Juliana, at least in my country, whatever the form of address might be, the clerk would just turn away and be totally non-responsive. They're not going to say "well, because it's a windfall for us". They're just going to stick you.


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nordiste  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 18:37
Member (2005)
English to French
+ ...
in France "tu" mainly for teenagers and "vous" for the others May 23, 2008

On websites or in advertising it seems now that "tu" (= du in German) is the sign of a teenagers' target. It is used in video games, IT gadgets, music etc.

A more adult target gets the "vous" treatment as a standard: to sell cars, supermarkets,cosmetics..

On forums ... it depends.
Regular users tend to use the "tu" ... it is the case here on the French forum - but still address the new comers as "vous" on the first times, before they become regular too. But there are no strict rules.

Before freelancing I used to work with an IT company where the "tu" and first name were a must, except with the big boss : only the "happy few" where on a "tu" basis ...

It is of course a cultural thing. I work frequently with Belgians (French speakers) and they seem to use the "tu" with almost everybody - except in shops.

[Edited at 2008-05-23 07:01]


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Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 18:37
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
The underlying question is how the site adresses the visitors May 23, 2008

Regular users tend to use the "tu" ... it is the case here on the French forum ...

My question is not about the etiquette we, the users, use when communicating with each other. It adresses the communication of the software (be it a stand-alone program, be it a web site) with its user.

In any case, the answer seems to be what I halfway expected myself: it depends.

Merci comme-meme!

Vito

[Edited at 2008-05-23 07:35]


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Juliana Starkman  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 12:37
Spanish to English
+ ...
Sorry! May 23, 2008

I apologize for my pre-weekend rant. I agree that on websites it can be tricky, especially because what may seem like respectful address to one client could just create distance for another...and most businessmen like to keep their clients close.

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Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:37
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
We used the formal version in the Hungarian version of ProZ May 23, 2008

Hi Vito,
We have the same thing in Hungarian, "you" can be "te" or "ön", and all verbs are conjugated differently depending on which style is used.
When we started localizing ProZ, the team agreed that even though we usually deal with each other using the informal style, it is more customary and polite to use the formal one on the website, as it is open for visitors. And in general, you don't start out using the informal style when meeting a stranger, unless you are a teenager or otherwise it is obvious that the formal style would be strange. It is always safer to use the formal style.

When I localize websites for clients, this is usually the very first question I ask, and it is up to the client to decide which style they prefer. I usually have to explain what it is about, as monolingual English executives not always have the perspective on this.
So far, most of my clients opted for the formal style, although you are right, IKEA uses informal. At one of my clients we created and maintain both versions of the software, so depending on their client's preference they can customize the website either way.


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Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:37
Spanish to English
+ ...
Cultural issue May 23, 2008

Vito Smolej wrote:
When in Slovenia, do as Slovenians do, I guess - will have to check.


Yes, I think that's the key: follow general practice in the target country.

At least you have it easier than people who localize international web sites into Spanish and must try to navigate a middle road through the cultural intricacies of more than twenty countries on multiple continents, some of which have *three* forms of "you" in the singular (formal, informal, and intimate). Some countries tend toward the formal "you" in these situations, but then there's Spain where even 12-year-olds call their teachers "tú" and refer to them by their first names.

[Edited at 2008-05-23 16:23]


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Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 18:37
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
The answer to my question is rather simple May 23, 2008

Vito Smolej wrote:
When in Slovenia, do as Slovenians do, I guess - will have to check.

Even simpler than that (g): I am localizing the following site

www.doodle.com

(good stuff btw). Now from the contents,. localized so far, it is evident, the "thou" form is preferable (see wwww.doodle.de), I should have had no reason to ask in the first place.

But - as Billy Wilder said so simply in "Some like it hot": nobody is perfect.

Thanks everybody!

[Edited at 2008-05-23 17:12]


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Daniel García
English to Spanish
+ ...
How about letting the user choose? May 27, 2008

Its pretty much a cultural question... I decided for the "thou" alternative, when localizing ProZ for the Slovenian version. Would the "you" version hurt? Would it get too close for the comfort zone?


Hi, Vito,

I thought of you today when I visited a website which offers three language options:

English, German and German (informal)

In German the options are called, Englisch, Deutsch and Deutsch (andrede "Du").

I don't know how common this is in German (it is the first time I notice it) but it seems that having two translations might be another option...

In case your curious, this is the site:

http://www.sweetwater-forum.de/

Daniel


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Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 18:37
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
"...Deutsch and Deutsch (Anrede "Du")...." Jun 5, 2008

My wife once said about Sie/Du dichotomy: it's much harder to say "Sie A*loch" compared to "Du A*loch" - again its a cultural question, and of course a social question, wonder what Hannoverians/Windsors would say about it, when discussing their relationship with their butlers and the rest of the world...-

The site that forced me to ask the question, is a clear (eidgenossische!) Thou site (I just did not watch close enough), but I guess, we are in for some more interesting surprises...

Thank you for sharing!

regards

Vito

[Edited at 2008-06-05 05:31]


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